Aurora cops stood outside Stampede, a country bar, on Sunday night as Juggalos, otherwise known as Insane Clown Posse fans, walked in and out, many with faces painted like clowns.
“Why are there so many police here?” one Stampede staffer asked.
“This band’s fans are very ugly,” another replied.
The Aurora Police Department had put together a plan to prevent crime at the Insane Clown Posse show, and part of that was showing up in force at the entrance. Inside, clean-cut, black-clad security guards hired by Stampede wore body armor and strutted through the venue looking more cop-like than the actual cops.
“After doing a bit of research — we know about the Insane Clown Posse and their reputation — we staffed it with ten uniformed officers,” says Sergeant Bill Hummel, a spokesman for the APD.
Juggalos are used to gaggles of cops showing up at concerts — that's been happening for years. But when the FBI designated the horror-core band's fans a street gang and pledged to work with local, state and national law enforcement agencies to bring them down, the presence of police at the shows increased.
The FBI's designation of the music fans as a gang garnered the agency no shortage of ridicule — or lawsuits. In 2017, Juggalos marched on Washington, D.C., demanding that law enforcement quit criminalizing them.
Earlier this year, the FBI release the report that branded Juggalos as a gang. In it, the agency accuses the ICP fans of illegally discharging firearms, selling and possessing drugs, and child endangerment.
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But after assessing the risks associated with the concert, Aurora police decided they had things under control.
“There was no coordination with the FBI or federal law enforcement,” says Hummel. “If we needed their assistance, we would [have asked].”
Like most of ICP’s shows, Aurora's was a mix of crude and lackluster sing-songy rap, carnivalesque spectacle and flying two-liter bottles of Faygo — a Detroit brand of soda the group showers audiences with.
The chants of “Fam-i-ly, fam-i-ly, fam-i-ly” and “Whoop whoop” roared through the crowd. People hugged each other. The whole affair was a lovefest between music fans who couldn’t contain their excitement and a band that has been doing what it does — for better or worse — since 1989.
“We are not a gang,” said MC Shaggy 2 Dope into the mic. These days, that’s part of his shtick, along with a host of other remarks about how they — presumably the people in power — want Juggalos to die.
While it’s hard to view 2 Dope as dangerous, he has had run-ins with violence, albeit of the dopey pro-wrestler sort.
Early in October, 2 Dope attempted a dropkick on Fred Durst in the middle of a Limp Bizkit concert. The clown — out of makeup — failed to make contact and was dragged off stage by security as Durst called him a “pussy” without seeming to recognize his attacker, a former collaborator and friend.
In an interview with the Orange County Register, 2 Dope's bandmate, Violent J, explained away the incident as a prank gone awry.
“Fred Durst is a friend of ours, you know what I mean? Just having fun," J told the paper. "Things look so crazy when they get into the news wire. He obviously threw it as a fake thing. If he had actually wanted to hit him, I don’t think he would have thrown a pro-wrestling dropkick. It probably would have looked a lot more serious and ruthless.”
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If the Juggalos are a gang, it’s one that's trafficking in corn syrup, kitschy nihilism, sticky hugs and back pats that are a little too aggressive for comfort. And beyond enjoying the same drugs as other music fans do, the wicked clowns’ greatest crimes include concealing existential despair with poorly applied makeup, spitting misogynistic rap lyrics, and leaving behind them a criminal mess of streamers drenched in Faygo and perhaps a little blood from inept crowd-surfers and over-eager dancers.
Considering other incidents at recent Denver-area concerts — a fan was sucker-punched at a Joe Russo's Almost Dead show, concert-goers were hospitalized after a brawl at this year's Luke Bryan concert, and a Winter on the Rocks attendee was attacked at Red Rocks — the Insane Clown Posse gig might as well have been a Night With Yo-Yo Ma. And I mean that as a compliment.
Leaving the concert, more than a few Juggalos thanked the guards and officers; law enforcement and security thanked fans in return.
As far as the police were concerned, the evening was a success. “We had no issues,” says Hummel.